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Supernatural is all the rage currently permeating every form of entertainment literature movies past television to such forms as graphic novels and gameplay. As such, it has been a dilution of the power of the supernatural inherently contains and that that they can infused into stories properly utilizing it as a plot device. Apparently, most filmmakers are approaching the supernatural with contextual blinders firmly in place. They can see and understand the horrific potential the creatures manifested through the mythologies as expressed through a plethora of ethnic origins, and how well suited; they are for both the antagonist and protagonist of the story. There is a polarization most commonly enforced with demons at one end and Angels occupying the other pole of the spectrum. But I have noticed is exceptionally rare is a story that they has to take the unique vision of supernatural circumstances. The film, ‘Horns’, directed by Alexandre Aja utilizing a script provided by Keith Bunin based on the novel Joe Hill based on the novel the same name by Stephen King. The sage advice of not judging a book by its cover is also applicable to the cover art of Blu-rays and DVDs. For the home release of this film, Daniel Radcliffe, the actor forever linked with a decade of playing Harry Potter, is depicted disheveled, bearded and angry. The most prominent feature of this portrait of the large, curving on such as normally found on a ram protruding from his temples. All of the young actors who grew up literally on camera are now faced with proving themselves much more than the parts they portrayed for over a decade. To their credit, he has been very little if any negative tabloid attention to the Hogwarts alumni. Both Mr. Radcliffe and Emma Watson have excelled in their post. Harry Potter careers. ‘Horns’ demonstrates how Radcliffe continues honing his skills by taking on parts in independent movies that the man he’d stretch his abilities beyond his previous comfort zone. More than that, this is a highly entertaining film that will continue to bounce around in your mind long after the closing credits roll. Watch it with some open-minded friends, you will have the urge to sit in the quiet coffee bar and discuss the finer nuances of this film.

Even the director of the gimmick laden creature feature can prove he is capable of far greater work. Alexandre Aja was responsible for the beer and pizza flick, ‘Piranha 3-D’, and the straightforward horror movie, ‘Mirrors’, but in this movie, he displays a yet untapped depth and diversity to his talent. Many filmmakers try to fashion themselves as a cinematic mixologist, blending genres with the abandon of the Upper East Side bartender creating drinks at some fashionable club. The failure rate in both cases is amazingly high. Since the subtle nuances of the ingredients preclude them from properly blended; something often not noticeable until you actually try them together. For those who enjoy intriguing novelty in the independent films, Mr. Aja will definitely not disappoint. Building on the foundation of the supernatural, mostly in the form Judeo-Christian mythology and apocryphal literature, upon that substructure the crafts an intricate design made from the amalgam of mystery, crime drama, thriller and horror. Many have tried this before; many have failed.

Ig Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) is like so many young people who grew up in a company town that is long past its prime. For Ig the particulars include community that survives because of work provided by coal mine, like many such places in Pennsylvania. Considering what is about to happen, I have a distinct impression that down the road you might find a similar town named Hemlock Grove. This story opens in medias res, directly following the rape and murder of his longtime girlfriend, Merrin Williams (Juno Temple), Ig’s relationship with Merrin is explored through a series of flashbacks from how they met as children to eventually growing up and growing in love. The crucial point to these flashbacks is establishing the childhood personal dynamics that would only intensified with majority .Ig’s best friend has always been Lee Tourneau (Max Minghella) usually hung out with Merrin and Ig. As an adult, Lee is now a lawyer and is taking on the defense of Ig. Part of a larger group of friends included Ig’s older brother, Terry (Joe Anderson) and Eric Hannity (Michael Adamthwaite), who is now a shelf in the town charge with arresting Ig. Some of the lesser roles were portrayed by actors familiar to the audience from other endeavors. The sexy, fame hungry waitress, Veronica was played by Heather Graham. While the wild child of the group, Glenna Shepherd, was portrayed by Kelli Garner, most recently from the one season series, ‘Pan Am’.

The crimes that Ig stands accused of a particularly heinous and brutal. Mirren was taken out into the woods, savagely raped and brutally bludgeoned to death with a rock. Just prior to the determined time of death, a witness reported that Ig and Mirren engaged in a very intense emotional argument. Since Ig had been drinking to excess that evening, he has no recollection of what he’s done. This infused him with the lingering and unshakable doubt that he may in fact have been guilty. He was deeply in love with Mirren, but lately she seemed to be pulling away from him. With no memories of what occurred Ig maintains a deep-seated feeling that he might have done it. After another night of overindulgence, he finds himself waking up in the bed of Glenna. She has always had her eye on him and has been jealous of Mirren, since they were children. When Ig most of the sink to freshen up the notices a pair of bumps beginning to break through the skin of his temples. Within a very short time they are taking the form of horns rapidly growing and curving backwards.

As Ig stumbles around town begins to run into people he knows. Despite the fact that the horns are now quite prominent the people he begins to speak to don’t seem to notice them. Even more unusual is that if he makes contact with their skin. The person begins to rattle on opening up in revealing the most shameful dark secrets. For example, when he speaks to Eric while in his police cruiser with his partner, his childhood friend works out that he takes pleasure in satisfying himself while thinking of his partner. As children Eric always came off as a homophobe quick to use gay pejoratives to humiliate his friends. Ig is understandably shocked by his new power correctly associating it to the horns that seemingly no one else can see. He tries ramming them off and even, at one point taking a hacksaw to them, but nothing he does makes a dent in their removal. Resigned to having the horns and the power to elicit the darkest truths from anyone, he encounters, Ig decides to embrace his current situation and use it to investigate who really raped and murdered Mirren.

If used only as a plot contrivance or horror film, the horns, even with the ability to elicit secrets, would be exceptionally thin and unable to support an interesting story. As far as crime stories go, a drunken lover awakening from a stupor, only to find himself accused of a heinous crime has the propensity to the pedantic. The way Mr. Aja combines these normally discrepant genres borders on the inspired. As mentioned they had followed anyone methodology is film would’ve been doomed to the mundane. The intriguing way that he blended them together managed to create a story that is intriguing, inexorably pulling you in and holding your attention until the very last frame. One factor that demonstrates the capital planning that went into the construction of this movie can be found in the many Bible references sprinkled throughout. Several of the license plates casually placed on incidental vehicles the late the Bible versus the provide clues critical to understanding the deeper meanings infused in the story. The scriptural image of snakes is a powerful one, and crucial to achieving the dénouement. The first time Ig encounters the serpentine influence is at Veronica’s place of work, Eve’s diner, whose logo is a giant apple. One very clever implementation of this plot device is that in at least one case, the interpretation of scriptural reference is ambiguous, but either interpretation fits perfectly. I tend to believe this is not accidental, but was fully intended to instill itself in the mind of the audience and open the interpretation of the story to different resolutions. That is ultimately the strength of this film that you can watch it multiple times and each experience may lead you to a different conclusion. Just remember as you watch and be watch this film, what you get out of it depends largely on the amount of attention you put into enjoying it.

Posted 01/03/2015

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